Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Sustainability and economic prosperity in Southern Africa


This year, Egypt hosted the 27th UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP27), which raised some intriguing questions about the relevance of sustainable business to African organizations and communities. Many people in this region see sustainability as a problem imported from the West and Europe that unfairly burdens Africa, which has contributed far less to climate change.

Mining, utilities, agriculture, and tourism are among the leading industries in Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries dealing with immediate issues such as infrastructure gaps, unskilled workers, crime, and social equity. Rising environmental regulations may seem insignificant in comparison.

“Our customers in Southern Africa are well aware of ESG  mandates, and may or may not have plans to meet their goals. Yet they often see people’s daily survival as a more immediate concern – and rightly so,” said Cyril Rathogwa, senior solution advisor for procurement at SAP Africa.

“However, organizations don’t have to prioritize sustainability against organizational growth and profitability. Sustainable business will drive economic prosperity.”

Regardless of a company's geographic location, sustainability does not preclude profits and growth. Indeed, sustainable business is the most efficient, connecting data across the organisation so people can make more informed decisions, act faster to prevent supply chain disruptions, and keep employees engaged for maximum productivity. It's not an either/or situation.

“Consider the value of a Business Network  where organizations of all sizes can discover and obtain services from trusted suppliers anywhere, including marginalized communities,” said Rathogwa. “With data transparency, larger companies can identify local trading partners to mitigate risk and potential disruptions along the supply chain. They can also prove compliance with sustainability mandates. These partnerships help smaller suppliers develop their business too, improving the quality of life for people and economic conditions in rural communities.”

Redefining sustainable innovation in Africa
Organizations in Southern Africa approach innovation in different ways, just as Africa is made up of different countries with different business demands. In Southern Africa, sustainable business is centered on innovations to alleviate poverty and build a more inclusive society with educated and employable people who can participate in a digital world with expanded business opportunities. Some financial services and telecommunications companies are on the cutting edge of inspired creativity, bringing digital products and services to previously underserved people in remote, rural communities.

The majority of government agencies are focused on automating basic citizen services. It's critical to meet organizations where they're at.

“We are seeing tremendous innovation from organizations of all sizes that are creating solutions on the SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP),” said Rathogwa. “They can localize offerings for customers based on country-specific sustainability mandates, while gaining exposure for their products and services. This increases their market opportunities with state-owned and private sector enterprises.”

Relevance of Sustainability in Africa
Climate change's domino effect is palpable throughout Africa. South Africa's drought is still causing life-threatening water shortages. Extreme weather, such as the unusually heavy seasonal rains that have drenched West and Central Africa this year, is affecting millions of people and submerging farmlands, threatening food supplies across the continent, including Southern Africa.

“Carbon taxes alone won’t address climate change imperatives. We need solutions that help organizations reduce and eliminate carbon emissions in the first place,” said Rathogwa. “Communities need strategies to help people sustain viable livelihoods so they aren’t driven to poaching animals or polluting the environment as a way to earn a living. This is where technology has a huge role to play.”

SAP's collaboration with Elephants, Rhinos, and People (ERP), a non-profit organization that uses SAP technologies to capture and analyse images from drones and GPS collars on animals, is one example. ERP collaborates with impoverished communities who share their land with wildlife. ERP provides non-lethal alternatives to poaching as a source of community income by constructing sustainable economic engines for rural communities in areas adjacent to threatened species. Rathogwa stated that animals are critical to the tourism industry in Southern Africa, as well as the quality of the environment for the people who live there.

Balancing act
Carbon emission and other sustainability regulations are great, but only if they are accompanied by accurate reporting and strict accountability.

“Contrary to assumptions that protecting the environment is somehow a luxury that African industries cannot afford, organizations in SADC need a more holistic approach that balances economic survival in large metropolitan locations with the downstream impact on the environment,” said Rathogwa.

“Eventually sustainability impacts everyone, including people in rural communities. We have so much to protect on this continent that we love.”